The time everything changed – pivotal moments in my life

Content warning: Drug use and mental health issues

This is a Yennski self-reflective sort of post. I am hoping my story will have some helpful information for others. If not, it’s a nice story about overcoming adversity and making positive choices I guess.

I have an autobiography. It is the first book I wrote and it was the catalyst for some dramatic change in my life. I want to share with you that time in my life when everything changed and how I used that experience to make a life for myself which was so dramatically different to what came before that it hardly makes sense. 

Anyone who has read that autobiography would know that I am an ex-prisoner, that I used to have a major drug addiction issue and that I was very poor for a long time. I was in denial about my autism and my schizophrenia and I didn’t like myself very much. I was unable to work at all for many years. There were some positives at play though. I decided in mid-2000 that I wanted a life which looked like what most people I knew in my family had – a professional job, a mortgage and an education. I applied for university and was successful. 

I had a few years where things could have gone one way or another. It was like I was caught between heaven and hell. At the time when I wrote my autobiography things were perched somewhere between fulfilment and destruction. I had a big alcohol problem due to living among alcoholics – I found it impossible to be socially accepted by alcoholics without having alcohol issues myself and I was desperate to be socially accepted by my neighbours. 

Employment was a tricky situation. I was desperate to get a professional job and had undertaken a lot of study so I could land a graduate role somewhere but I wasn’t working much and found any kind of work very stressful. In 2004 I got a phone call from an autism organisation and employment service I was seeing. They wanted me to do a course so that I could talk about autism at schools. I said yes and had no idea what a fundamental change the course would make in my life. Basically I found my autistic peer group and felt a huge sense of belonging. Even better than that I met Polly Samuel. Polly was a very charismatic person. She stood out amongst the group and I wanted to get to know her better. I asked Polly about herself and she told me she had written nine books on autism and was  a world-renowned autistic advocate. We became friends and soon she had suggested I write my own life story. It took me four weeks to draft the book. Polly helped me to edit it and wrote a foreword and sent it to her publisher. They said yes and my world changed forever.

The book was not a bestseller. It still isn’t a bestseller but it had a huge impact on my life. When it was accepted for publication I was living in social housing and had a neighbour who was stalking me. I was still caught between two worlds – and I knew which one I wanted to inhabit. I longed to be a professional employee and have more accomplishments like that beautiful blue and pink book. I think I told everyone I knew that I was about to be an author. I had never had an accomplishment like it. It gave me more confidence that I knew was possible. The idea of Yenn the author was an idea that I could get very used to. 

Three months after the book was published I applied for two graduate roles in the public service. I knew that as an ex-prisoner it would be difficult to get a job like that but I figured if I didn’t apply I would never know the outcome and that if I applied and was unsuccessful, well I would just be in the same situation I already was so why not go for it.

It turned out that I was successful for one of the graduate jobs. I told my new employer about my criminal history as well as my autism and schizophrenia. The department did an investigation and decided I did not pose a threat to anyone. So in 2007 I moved to Canberra to start my new life as a public service graduate officer. I loved my work from the day I started. It is now almost fifteen years past that day and I can say that I still love my job. I have done a huge range of different roles and have been promoted twice. 

2007 was an interesting year and a pivotal one. I discovered that I am diligent and respectful at work and have a massive work ethics and that my level of motivation is immense. One of my managers recently told me I do the work of two people. 

I ended up buying a property, writing a bunch more books and becoming a passionate autism advocate – not necessarily in that order! When I look at the early 2000s I realise that my life could have gone one of a number of ways. There were so many ‘sliding doors’ moments but most fo the time I took the more positive option. The thing which helped me was my good judgement, motivation and willpower. I have given up a number of addictions over the years. I lost 40kg in weight in three years and I threw out my address book when I left prison knowing that all the ‘friends’ in there were in a negative place and I didn’t want to get involved with them again. I am also a huge optimist and try to see the positives in situations – and people. I could have gone in any of a number of directions in my twenties and early thirties but I didn’t. I connected with positive people and mentors and fought hard to make a better world for myself. And now I hope I am making a better world for others through my writing and advocacy. Go well beautiful people and may the choices you make be beneficial and positive. 

My autobiography – not a bestseller but a game changer if you are me!

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